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Finding Healing in Photography

A lonely bur oak in the middle of a Wisconsin cornfield became the subject of a year-long photography project during which Mark Hirsch made a picture of the tree every day.

A lonely bur oak in the middle of a Wisconsin cornfield became the subject of a year-long photography project during which Mark Hirsch made a picture of the tree every day. As he details in his story in the September 2015 edition of Guideposts, the quiet daily experience of photographing that oak tree proved a transformative healing experience for Hirsch, after he was nearly killed in an automobile accident in October of 2011. The resulting portfolio of images was published by Press Syndication Group as the book That Tree in October of 2013.

Guideposts: Mark Hirsch's oak tree, shrouded in snow

1 of 13/ January 20, 2012

An awesome tree in a field I drive by on every trip to town. Shrouded in today’s snowstorm, I felt compelled to hike out and grab a photo of it. This was the first time I ever used the camera in my iPhone. Seems my iPhone camera has inspired me to capture those scenes I’ve previously captured only in my mind’s eye!


Guideposts: The old Bur Oak is silhouetted by the setting sun

2 of 13/ March 14, 2012

The old bur oak is silhouetted by the setting sun in the second photo I ever took of it with my iPhone. I eventually committed to photographing it in a project I called That Tree.

Guideposts: Like black lightning, branches from that tree frame a beam of sunlight breaking through an ominous sky

3 of 13/ Day 1—March 24, 2012

Like black lightning, branches from that tree frame a beam of sunlight breaking through an ominous sky beyond That Tree. This was the first photo I made in the official calendar year of my project.

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Chris and Bear playing together.

4 of 13/ Day 22—April 14, 2012

I never know what visual discovery I might make in my ever-expanding field of view around That Tree. Kind of like life!


A man going for a morning run; Getty Images

5 of 13/ Day 39—May 1, 2012

Staminate and semi-transparent early growth leaves hang from a branch of That Tree.


Guideposts: The gnarly limbs of That Tree frame its trunk in the shape of a natural heart.

6 of 13/ Day 60—May 22, 2012

The gnarly limbs of That Tree frame its trunk in the shape of a natural heart.


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7 of 13/ Day 75—June 6, 2012

Dawn light creates an enchanted feeling as the moon sets beyond That Tree.

Guideposts: Out-of-town friends Lora Kohnlein and her sons Duggan and Patrick experience That Tree.

8 of 13/ Day 111—July 12, 2012

I had a fun time introducing Lora Kohnlein and her sons Duggan and Patrick, who were visiting from Henderson, Colorado, to That Tree. The boys and I climbed the tree, examined dozens of bugs and discussed the finer points of the video game Angry Birds. Thanks, boys, for inspiring me to see things like a kid again!

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A brilliant sunset in the South Pole.

9 of 13/ Day 137—August 7, 2012

I enjoyed the sunset tonight with my dog, Magnum, and That Tree, two of my favorite photo subjects!

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Guideposts: Glowing in its fall colors, a fallen leaf hangs suspended agains the textured bark of That Tree.

10 of 13/ Day 174—September 13, 2012

Glowing in its fall colors, a fallen leaf hangs suspended agains the textured bark of That Tree.


Guideposts: One last sunset photo before the harvest,  with corn still standing in the field

11 of 13/ Day 200—October 9, 2012

In one of my last photographs of That Tree with corn still standing in the field, I wanted to make one last sunset photo before the harvest.


Guideposts: That Tree is reflected upside down in the heavy snowflakes melting on the window of my truck.

12 of 13/ Day 228—November 6, 2012

That Tree is reflected upside down in the heavy snowflakes melting on the window of my truck.

Guideposts: Like a scene from the land of fairy, That Tree rises ethereal from the enchanted mists of her valley

13 of 13/ Day 320—Feb. 6, 2013

Like a scene from the land of fairy, That Tree rises ethereal from the enchanted mists of her valley.

ENJOY A LITTLE ARMCHAIR TRAVEL TO ALASKA!

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